Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
THE football community is in agreement that Marvelous Nakamba has performed beyond expectations since he made his debut in the English Premiership for Aston Villa.
But there is a bigger challenge awaiting him today, as he is expected to line up against some of the most expensive superstars of the game. His side face champions Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. Nakamba has acquitted himself well in the last five games that he has started for Villa against West Ham, Arsenal, Burnley, Norwich and Brighton.
And he has become one of the vital cogs in that engine room comprising himself, Conor Hourihane and John McGinn.
Manchester City are likely to unleash the likes of David Silva, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne.
Villa are on a good run after taking seven points from their past three games.
Nakamba forced himself into the Villa first team with his consistent performances in the holding role, effectively relegating highly-rated former City midfielder Douglas Luiz to the bench.
Their coach Dean Smith told the Birmingham Mail that he believes with players of such calibre, his midfield “can out-run and out-work the best of teams.”
While Grealish and McGinn were at their usual best in the last game against Brighton, Nakamba was immaculate with his passing which translated to 97 percent accuracy.
He won 11 duels, a statistic that was only bettered by Grealish (16) and McGinn (19).
“Jack’s one of our top distance coverers during a game but, also, one of our top high-speed runners as well. His stats are certainly getting there.
“He knows he wants to get better which is the beauty of all the players we’ve got.
“We’ve got John McGinn as well who does exactly the same (work rate). With them two it’s a great starting point and with Marvelous Nakamba as well, he covers some distance, especially winning the second balls in the last 10 minutes.
“The three of them in midfield at the moment, it’s certainly a great starting point for us,” said Smith.
Nakamba has played in all of Villa’s last five games.
“He’s a wonderful person. He’s got such an enthusiasm that, when you meet him, straight away you’re endeared to him.
“He wanted to come and play in the Premier League and believes he’s good enough and we believed that.
“He’s the sort of player that we felt could improve us as a team. The dressing room has helped him settle in, he’s got Bjorn Engels and Wesley who he’s played with at Brugge,” Smith said.
Nakamba’s defensive shield has helped free up McGinn and Grealish.
The skipper is relishing making an impact this weekend against Manchester City — a fixture he stresses everyone in the club is looking forward to.
“We all know how tough the games are going to be, playing Man City away and then Liverpool at home,’’ said Grealish.
“They’re the two best teams in the league and could be up there in the world.
“All of the lads want to play in the Premier League and these are the games you look forward to.
“I guarantee the guys that have come over from abroad are looking forward to this one the most, playing against Man City and the best players in the world.”